As they stand over the bodies of their fallen adversaries, the members of the Vanguard stare dejectedly into the sky at the receding form of Astrid. Without warning, a rainbow-hued anomaly appears before them, and as it clears the heroes see the unconscious form of Astrid along with the smiling Miss Ming! Miss Ming points to the rapidly disappearing speck and states that the Astrid that the unknown assailant has taken is actually one of her illusions. She also recommends that the group vacate the park before the villain realizes his mistake.
Agreeing with the illusion, the heroes gather up the fallen victims and return to the Aerie. Also in the Aerie are Agent Artis Shannon (the groups MEDUSA liaison) and his newest recruit; the Cleaner. Agent Shannon is predictably terse with his introductions and quick with his exit.
The members of the Vanguard gather on the roof with their bound captives. The Cleaner takes an active part in the interrogation, breaking one of Spyder’s toes and threatening to break more before Gonzoconvinces him that as heroes, they cannot stoop to those methods. Showing no reaction to the broken toe, Spyder calmly looks at his compatriots and instructs them not to say anything.
Realizing that the Spyder is the leader of this group, the Vanguard decides to separate him from the other three. The Cleaner takes Spyder downstairs into the main living area. While Cleaner is keeping a close eye on the villain, Spyder escapes from his bonds and makes for the window. Utilizing his super speed, the Cleaner blocks the window, but ultimately is no match for the powerful villain. Before losing consciousness, the Cleaner is able to call for help.
Up on the roof, the heroes hear the cry for help followed quickly by the crash of breaking glass. The Unknown Soldier and Grey Mist make their way downstairs and find the unconscious body of the Cleaner and a shattered window. The pair search the headquarters believing the Spyder to be hidden somewhere inside. Their search is unsuccessful and Teacher confirms that there are no other living beings in the complex.
Reacting to the sound of breaking glass, Gonzo flies off of the roof looking for the fleeing supervillain – but he is unable to locate the Spyder either.
The heroes return to the roof where they continue the interrogation. In a fit of pique and frustration, the Unknown Soldier knocks the Desert Nomad back into unconsciousness. Longarm taunts the heroes by demanding that his toes be broken too! He demonstrates the futility of breaking his limbs by twisting his own toes 720 degrees using his stretching abilities. When threatened by Enerjon, he blissfully turns on his force field power laughing maniacally. Enerjon takes his time pummeling the force field with power blasts until Longarm removes it.
Cowed by the show of force against immobilized captives, Silent Rage indicates that he is willing to answer questions – but will need his arms untied as he is a mute and can only communicate effectively through the written word. The heroes separate him from his companions and, under careful guard, they untie him and provide him with writing materials. They learn the following information from the villain:
- The invisible villain that escaped with ‘Astrid’ was the Headhunter
- Headhunter probably flew back to their base of operations – arrogantly located in the same SWORD complex that the heroes attacked previously.
- This group is not accustomed to working together; they were assembled for the mission from the ranks of SWORD
- Their specific mission was to capture Astrid
- Other groups of villains may be in the base of operations
- He is not aware of the clone project. He indicates that there is a hierarchy in SWORD and he is not very high in the ranks
- The ‘Boss’ that directed them on this mission is the Wild Boar
Having learned all that they can from their captives, the Vanguard calls the NYPD to collect the villains and cart them off to jail – knowing full well that the villains will likely be out on bail quickly. Enerjon complains bitterly about the bail system.
Astrid’s flu-like symptoms continue to get worse. And the Unknown Soldiers nightmares also get worse – in this one he is in epic battle with a cloaked villain that radiated EVIL. After the exhausting ebb and flow of the fight he is hurt mortally, but is victorious. The villain’s cowl falls away and is revealed to be the Grey Mist!
In the morning, the battered and bruised heroes are met by the now familiar site of Lee Sung’s minions arriving with their catered breakfast. The head minion indicates that the ‘Uncle’ is aware that the heroes may be in need of some specialized services. He introduces the heroes to Sun Ye , a young Chinese woman. Sun Ye goes to each of the heroes (except Xue Zen who refuses) and lays hands on them. Sun Ye has the ability to bestow her own power of regeneration on those she touches and all of the heroes are quickly healed. Xue Zen leaves the Aerie and goes to the hospital for treatment.
Following his first aid, Xue Zen travels to Washington D.C. and visits Devea in her Georgetown townhouse. Devea is especially cold and unwelcoming. Since the Vanguard left Center City, Stanislaw felt morally obligated to come out of retirement and stand up against evildoers in the Vanguard’s absence. Unfortunately, the civilians of Center City in an anti-costumed hero rage ambushed the elderly hero and hospitalized him. It is unknown at this time whether or not he will emerge from his coma. Devea sternly lectures Xue Zen and demands that the Vanguard return to right the wrongs.
Xue Zen promises that the Vanguard will return to Center City following their obligations in Boston. He also asks if Devea can help determine whether his Uncle has exerted any undue influence on Miss Ming or himself. Devea studies him for a moment and replies that there are traces of his Uncle’s influence about him – but that Lee Sung is probably distracted from his current goals by the presence of the other sorcerer that the Vanguard has brought into this world…. Baron Zelmut.
Meanwhile, the rest of the team prepares for their scheduled trip to the Boston Museum to guard the exhibition. Grey Mist receives a phone call from Guf. Guf renews his invitation for dinner for that evening. He suggests that the heroes arrive around 7pm. The heroes, knowing that the museum closes at 5pm, respectfully decline. The Vanguard sends the Unknown Soldier, the Cleaner, Grey Mist, Astrid, Enerjon, Gonzo, and the Bat to Boston.
Once they arrive at the museum, the heroes head immediately to the museum. They had previously recommended that the museum not display the Scroll of Destiny and instead replace it with a forgery. They are pleased to find that the exhibitors followed their suggestion – Grey Mist is even more pleased to have his original replacement scroll returned to him (apparently the museum finds crayon on construction paper to be an inadequate replacement).
Xue Zen leaves Washington and catches a flight to Boston. Astrid meets him at the airport. Also meeting him at the airport is a limo driver bearing a ‘Xue Zen’ placard. Xue Zen and Astrid converse with him and he hands them an envelope – containing an engraved invitation from Guf for dinner this evening. The heroes decline the ride and the invitation and join the rest of the group at the museum.
Following the closing of the museum at 5pm, Enerjon and Xue Zen patrol the entrance level while the rest of the heroes take up posts in the sub-level where the exhibit is being displayed. At 6pm, Enerjon sees a long black limousine pulls up to the front door. To his surprise, his Vanguard communicator goes off. To his greater surprise, it is Guf calling! Guf renews his invitation one final time (in their best interest!) and states that he has sent a car for the heroes. Enerjon abruptly declines and the limo glides away.
Later that evening, about 9pm, Xue Zen feels an icy sensation and sounds the alarm. At the same moment, 4 ghostly sprits came through the floors of the sub-level and a glowing purple disc approximately 12 feet in diameter appears on the ceiling. The ghosts include:
- A ghostly teenage girl – Mist
*A Civil-War Era Colonel – Colonel Elgin
- A hellish female ghoul perpetually burning with blue fire – Heloise
- A Colonial-Era spirit (complete with powdered wig) – Banchiee
The four spirits immediately converge on the Golden Sarcophagus of King Rhamadad and begin to lift the slab lid. Gonzo grabs the lid telekinetically in an attempt to keep it shut, but the combined might of the ghosts is too much for him to overcome. The lid is thrown to the side and a ghost in Egyptian headdress flies from the sarcophagus. The Egyptian ghost has the mortal remains of King Rhamadad in its arms and it flies through the portal in the ceiling.
Astrid has been in her astral form and she follows the ghost through the center of the portal, and Gonzo and the Bat follow immediately. Astrid, to her surprise, flies astrally right through the floor to the main floor – apparently unable to fly through the gate. To her greater surprise, Gonzo and the Bat (in their all too physical forms) come crashing through the floor leaving a gaping hole. Gonzo’s unconscious body falls to the floor.
The remaining heroes team up to pound the daylights out of Heloise and after a couple of big hits, she cackles maniacally and flies up through the purple disc.
Mist touches the Unknown Soldier and he feels as if his very soul is wrenched from his body. The ghost then begins attacking with his Power Blast ability. She successfully uses his power to fell the Bat.
The heroes luck begins to turn and they are able to successfully knock Mist and Banchiee through the walls to the point where they fail to return. Xue Zen battles with Colonel Elgin striking him repeatedly with his sais. Grey Mist correctly guesses that this particular ghost is immune to normal physical attacks and between his telekinetic/magnetic blasts and Enerjon’s and Unknown Soldier’s power blasts they are able to repel him.
Silence falls over the museum. Grey Mist ponders, ‘Is it really stealing? Looks like the Pharoah walked out with his own property….’